Peru Day 4: Sacred Valley, Part 2

Continuing down memory lane with our Peru trip.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

In the morning, we decided to book another taxi for the day from the hotel desk. There might have been other ways to find a driver, but the hotel was a reputable source and less expensive than our main tour company. We paid about $70 total to hire the driver/car for the day.

After waiting in the lobby for a short time, our driver from Monday picked us up and we started towards Pisac.  On arrival, we drove three miles up the hill from the town and found the ruins to be very interesting.  They appeared to be a mix of military, housing, and religious sites.

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Given that our altitude sickness problems seemed to be mostly gone, we could have hiked up from town, but since we still had somewhat low energy, and since we had a driver, we decided to skip the hike and focus our energy on exploring the ruins.

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Our exploration took us by some terraces:

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Then up the hill to the main ruins:

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We all really enjoyed the hike around the ruins.

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If you have ever been to Mesa Verde in Colorado, some of the ruins appeared to have some similarities with cliffside dwellings built into the hill.  Unfortunately that portion was in poor condition and was off limits for hiking.

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The views were quite nice:

The boys really enjoyed scrambling over the ruins and exploring all the different dwellings.

Once we were mostly out of energy and ready for lunch, we headed back towards the car, and went down the mountain and into town for lunch.  The boys loved the name of “The Blue Llama,” so we decided to eat there.  I had some delicious alpaca, Jeremy had the trout, James got pot roast, and John had the lasagne.  He was very surprised when the lasagne came out coated in a béchamel sauce, but fortunately he decided it was delicious.

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After lunch, we decided to wander through the market where James got a couple of alpaca key chains and John found a red alpaca blanket with a nice pattern that he really liked.  It was quite warm and has held up very nicely.  Definitely a good purchase and quite reasonable on the price.  Definitely consider shopping at this market when looking for souvenirs.

We then decided to go back to our hotel in Yucay, where we drank some of the hotel’s lemonade.  Right after drinking it, we realized that we didn’t know whether it was made from bottled water or not, but since the hotel was fairly nice, we decided not to worry about it.  None of us suffered any immediate stomach issues, so were relieved.

One nice thing about traveling with slightly older children is that they are more likely to understand the water safety issues and can be reasonably expected not to drink/brush teeth with the tap water or bath water.  A toddler is a bit more risky, particularly in regards to the bath water.  One hint that really helps us is to place a washcloth or hand towel over the sink faucets every time we enter a hotel room.  When you go to brush your teeth, your brain is more likely to be triggered when you have to move the hand towel to get to the faucet.  Of course, the hotel staff will remove this towel, so you have to remember to replace it every day, but it is usually very effective.

Next, we decided to go explore the town, but didn’t find much.  There were a lot of tiny convenience stores, a couple of shabby looking restaurants, and lots of run down houses.  We decided to look up the average middle class salary, and found it to be in the range of $600-$1,000 per month, which made the $70 we spent on the taxi for the day seem more reasonable by local standards.

The construction methods and planting process have also been a source of interest to me.  Some of the houses are reinforced, or even mostly constructed, by sticks that appear to be the complete trunks of small trees.  Also, a lot of the houses appear to be built in sections.  One floor is built and is inhabited, then the next floor is started but not finished.  Our tour guide later in the trip told us that this serves two purposes.  First, the inhabitant doesn’t have to pay taxes until the building is complete.  Second, the inhabitant doesn’t give off the air of being rich, and is therefore less likely to be the target of thieves.

The planting process is also quite fascinating.  They seem to burn off the stubble from the previous year, then they plow the field either with a tractor, with cows, or even by a human pulled plow.  We also saw a lot of people picking out rocks from the field by hand.  It is amazing how much work is done by hand rather than by machine.  The other thing that was noticeable was that there was still quite a bit of roots and stubble visible while planting was in process.  The soil definitely was not as rich and black as you often see in wealthier countries.  Even though most of the fields were still being prepared for the next season, we did spot a few fields with some early crops peeking up.

I spent some time reflecting on the poverty.  Simply looking at how much we spent on hotels and food was a bit of a shock when you look at the daily salary of the average person.  I wonder what they think when tourists come in and flash their money around.  My hope is that they are happy to have money coming into their economy, but I still wonder what the deeper feelings are.

In the morning, we had noticed a group of three women sitting out in the grassy area of the hotel with blankets spread with their alpaca products.  These women were still sitting there in the late afternoon.  Since there weren’t that many guests at the hotel, we couldn’t imagine that they had sold much, and felt a bit sad for them.  We decided to check out what they were selling and I found a super soft brown and tan alpaca blanket with a chevron pattern that I liked.  Even though it was overpriced in comparison with what we saw in Pisac, the softness influenced us to get it.  As it turns out, this one did not hold up as well as the one that John picked out, and yarn keeps coming loose every time we use it.  The softness remains, but the blanket itself probably won’t last as long as I hoped.  Even with the inferior quality, I still hope that they were able to keep most of the money that we gave them and that the hotel didn’t take much of their profit.  I wonder if they were selling family products or mass produced products.

One other observation we made was that the Spanish missions in Peru were very similar to the Spanish missions in California.  Since we spent 2017 visiting all 21 California missions, it was really quite fascinating to see how the Spanish streamlined their process and were very focused on getting the New World to feel and act Spanish.  Whether it was a good thing is a different question, but regardless in their ethics of what they did, it’s amazing how vast an area they spread their empire.

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